If you live in the general vicinity of North Carolina, chances are you've crossed paths with Laura Vinroot Poole. The owner of Capitol and Poole Shop, two local boutiques that boast designers including Dries Van Noten, Gucci, and Rosie Assoulin, and daughter of former mayor Richard Vinroot, Poole is basically the Reese Witherspoon of the Tar Heel State—and she's got the Rolodex to prove it. At her outdoor dinner parties (most recently during Beach Week, a five-day-long event of parking lot parties, designer panels, trunk shows, and food), Poole has hosted the likes of Candice Bergen, Tavi Gevinson, and Busy Philipps over steaming plates of southern-style fare.
VIDEO: How to Set a Table for a Wedding or Dinner Party
Here, Poole shares five tips for hosting a dinner party to remember.
1. TRANSPORT YOUR GUESTS.
"Take cues from the season, a favorite destination, or era for whimsical décor touches that create a surprising atmosphere, like inflatable chairs or an old-school cotton candy machine. I'm super nostalgic about my childhood in the '70s, so I think about what I loved during the summertime: amusement parks, arcades, boardwalks, ice cream trucks, drive-in movies, and rollerskating. For me, it's all about recreating that special ambiance."
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2. DON'T MIX YOUR FLOWERS.
"Flowers instantly set the mood with their warmth and natural beauty. I never mix different flowers into an arrangement—I like peonies in one vase, dahlias in another. I think flowers are most beautiful when kept together as they grow. Plus, my brain likes it better when things are organized."
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4. INVITE INTERESTING PEOPLE.
"Great entertaining involves great people—end of story. I look at any of my dinner parties as salons where you're meeting artists and talking about their art, why they do what they do, and how they do what they do. Hearing Warm's Winnie Beattie and Tracy Feith (pictured above) share war stories on their design and life experiences adds to a party in a way that the best décor never could. For an icebreaker, I like asking everyone what they wore to prom. It's insightful in a funny way. Moonshine also helps."
5. PLAN A DELICIOUS MENU.
"Good food doesn't necessarily mean the most gourmet or trendy. I always have fried chicken, pickled okra or green tomatoes, watermelon and feta salad, pimento cheese biscuits, and bacon-wrapped figs. Always serve family-style—it feels more personal and forces people to talk."